Poor Viktor Navorski is nationless,
No visa, no passport, no funds.
His country Krakozhia suffered a coup,
Abandoning traveling sons.
Frank Dixon, the customs official,
Tells Viktor his country’s deposed.
He can’t let him into New York with no visa;
The U.S., for Viktor, is closed.
His only choice now is to wait there,
To wait with no ending in sight,
Surviving off crackers and bathing in sinks
And sleeping on benches at night.
He teaches himself better English
To fit in where he will reside.
Yet Dixon just wants Viktor out of his hair
And goads him to just sneak outside.
But Viktor is clever and honest.
He figures out ways to buy food,
But Dixon endeavors to sabotage him
As part of a one-sided feud.
Navorski runs into Amelia,
A flight attendant passing through.
She’s dating a married man but deserts him
In favor of Viktor, who’s true.
He also befriends those who work in the airport,
And finds his own job in construction.
When one of his confidants wants to propose,
He helps with long-distance seduction.
When Dixon reveals to Amelia the truth
That Viktor lives in the airport,
She asks Viktor why, and he pulls out a can
Of papers he’s there to escort.
His father got signatures of the jazz greats,
Except Benny Golson on sax.
He came there fulfilling a promise he made
Until he then fell through the cracks.
The war in Krakozhia soon comes to an end.
Amelia gives Viktor a pass
To leave for one day, which she got from her beau
For coming back to him with class.
Yet Dixon then blackmails Navorski
To get him to just fly away
Till one of his comrades delays Viktor’s flight,
And gives him his requisite day.
So Viktor Navorski departs for the doors,
With all the employees’ support,
And even security won’t arrest him
When he at last leaves the airport.
He goes to the hotel where Golson is playing
And gets him to sign when he’s asked.
His promise fulfilled, Viktor gets in a taxi
To leave for Krakozhia at last.

It’s hard to believe that someone could live like this in an airport, but The Terminal is reportedly based off Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who lived in a Paris airport for seventeen years. I didn’t much care for The Terminal the first time I saw it. I thought it was entertaining enough, but that the whole reason behind Viktor’s stay at the airport was weak. For him to go through so much inconvenience for the sake of a jazz musician’s autograph just didn’t seem worth it to me and was somewhat underwhelming, especially since his relationship with Amelia didn’t endure for long either.

But, mainly due to my VC’s further viewing, I gave it another shot and recognized many things to appreciate, despite the lackluster ending. Tom Hanks turns in yet another masterful acting job, speaking Bulgarian and displaying the same innocence and unlikely luck as Forrest Gump. His pathetic scenes early on, such as making a sandwich out of saltines and ketchup, instill sympathy for the character and his plight, and the clever ways he deals with the situation may be improbable but make him even more likable. Stanley Tucci is also skillful as the by-the-book jerk who tries to both get Viktor out and keep him in, and Catherine Zeta-Jones is lovely as Amelia, though her character’s arc isn’t really satisfying.

Viktor’s daily interactions with the airport employees make it reminiscent of a “meet ‘em and move on” film, and Zoe Saldana plays an unrealistically wedded Trekkie, unintentionally foreshadowing her involvement in the Star Trek reboot. Steven Spielberg lets the story flow effortlessly, and John Williams’s score is one of his under-appreciated gems. Borders may have gone out of business, but its signs and the plentitude of other product placement make the airport feel quite realistic.

The film may have several scenes that don’t quite pull off the drama they’re attempting (the “goat” medicine standoff, Gupta’s sacrifice), but it skillfully exhibits some of the ridiculous regulations of bureaucracy. Also, even if the signatures in the can may seem trivial to me, the promise to his father certainly meant a lot to Viktor so I’d say the end is more effective than I had first thought. Overall, The Terminal is a lesser Tom Hanks treasure that excels in its characterization and makes living in an airport an admirable thing.

Best line: (Viktor, to Enrique, after being unable to pronounce the word “cheat”) “She’s a nice… nice girl; she won’t take your chitting.”

Artistry: 8
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 9
Visual Effects: N/A
Originality: 9
Watchability: 9
TOTAL: 44 out of 60

Next: #177 – Castle in the Sky

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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